The Dakota Access Pipeline is just one of many pipelines coming out of the oil fields of western North Dakota. There are at least fifteen major pipelines across the Dakotas, so what is all the whoopla about? Why should we care about the standoff? The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has sued to stop the pipeline from crossing through their sacred sites and under the Missouri River. They claim that they were not given proper chance to comment on the route, that the project was fast tracked and corners were cut. A nonprofit, environmental, legal group, called Earthjustice, has accepted the job of pursuing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s interests in federal court.
In the meantime, the shores of the Missouri River and venues across the country and throughout the world are crowding with demonstrators standing with the people of the Standing Rock Reservation. One hundred and eighty-eight Tribes across the United States and Canada have written letters of support. Thousands of individuals and hundreds of businesses - including Wild Idea Buffalo Company, support the protesters (water protectors).
The company that is building the 1,100 mile long pipeline is really a group of connected companies receiving 10.25 billion in loans and guarantees from 38 banks to continue building this pipeline and others across the country. Like the XL Pipeline that was recently brought to a halt by the Obama administration, the promoters of this pipeline promise thousands of temporary construction jobs and untold economic benefit from the oil that will be allowed to flow freely from the Bakken oil fields to industries and automobiles. What they don’t seem to understand, is that that oil will not only flow to those industries and automobiles, but will eventually flow right on up and into the atmosphere, causing even more havoc as greenhouse gasses. The people who stand to make billions of dollars by pumping oil from the Bakken to refineries in the east don’t seem to care about the atmosphere. They don’t seem to care much about the water in the ground either. They say that there is no chance of the pipeline ever breaking where it goes under the Missouri River. They say it could never contaminate the water supply of the Standing Rock People. But, forever is a very long time to go without a leak and the Standing Rock people have heard those kinds of guarantees before. In the long view, water is much more valuable than oil. It always has been and it always will be, to the Standing Rock People and to us all.
There is a BBC News video of a pretty young woman named Juliana Brown Eyes-Clifford, who lives in a very small town on the Pine Ridge Reservation just to our south side boundary fence. In the video she tells about a dream that she had: Her people were moving across a dry land and they are very thirsty. They see a simple faucet sticking up from the earth, the people struggle to the faucet, but when they turned it on, oil flowed. What a terrible dream to trouble the sleep of young Juliana Brown Eyes.
On the surface, the demonstrations up on Standing Rock and around the world are about protecting sacred burial sites and the Missouri River. But, beneath the surface are other festering wounds inflicted on us all by mindless industry, greed, and arrogance. There are tribes, individuals, and business on the long list of supporters of the demonstrators that know nearly nothing about Standing Rock, their sacred sites, or the chances of oil leaks into their water supply. The industrialists and bankers who are building the Dakota Access Pipeline would say that those tribes, people, and business should stay out of the controversy, that they don’t have a dog in the fight. But that is where they are wrong. We have all seen these little battles before. Perhaps we have closed our eyes to them in the past, but now our eyes are open. These small battles may be little more than local grievances, but they add up to a war that encompasses us all and one that we cannot afford to loose.
So, while the standoff on Standing Rock is very real - vital and dangerous as such demonstrations can be, it is also symbolic of larger passions that are rising up in our country and around the world. We are all the people of Standing Rock, finally awaken to the subhuman, faceless enemy that is trying to stare us down along the banks of the Missouri River. It could bring us all ruin as an unintended consequence of simple greed.